Posted on: Friday, September 22nd, 2017
People who didn't go to school at Emory & Henry often think E&Hers have a weird relationship with our little cemetery. High on a hill that overlooks the campus is the Holston Conference Cemetery, and it is filled with history and memories and beloved friends and family. But it is also a place where E&Hers like to walk, visit with friends, engage in a romantic handhold, watch the sunset, watch the moon rise -- and other activities not mentioned here.
Suffice it to say that many of the unique and historic tombstones are very familiar to E&H students, alumni, and Emory community members. One familiar sight is a little statue of a pony. Granted, it looks like a donkey with those long ears, but according to family lore it was intended as a promised pony for some children who died too young.
For those of you who have always wondered, here is the story as told by descendants [Nancy Ball Ward (E&H '54) and her son, Tom Ward (E&H '84)] of the family who first brought the pony to graze in the cemetery.
“Emory’s Concrete Pony
The concrete pony in the Emory graveyard has a story. An Emory professor in the 1850s had 4 children who all had Scarlett fever and passed away from the disease. While they were sick, the professor promised them a pony. The four children are buried together in a small fenced area of the graveyard. The professor’s gift to them, the pony, still sits between their graves.
The professor is James A. Davis who was the thirteenth graduate from Emory & Henry and the first to return as a professor. Professor Davis and his wife lived in Byars hall upstairs, and he taught college students in the lower floors of Byars. He had six children that were born in Byars. All six had Scarlett fever. Only two survived.
The children were the first people buried in the Emory graveyard. The metal fence around the graves was placed there by Professor Davis to keep the cows out because the area was where cattle grazed. Professor Davis was the son of Emory’s first professor when the college was founded in 1838. The college was surrounded by farming fields and cattle grazing areas at that time. The first students of the college had to help farm the fields and tend the cattle and lived off the food grown there.
The names of the four children buried with the pony are: Mary, William, Albert and Eugene. The children’s names can be read on the tall pyramid monument close by with all the family names. The foot markers of the children’s graves is where the pony sits."
So, while the little pony has a solemn post to keep, he also has one of the best views in the cemetery.